Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Spice up your Social Life with the Zoomers

If you have participated in a 5K running race in Southwest Florida you have probably heard of the Zoomers. Not only do they promote the sport, they also provide timing for many races put on by other organizations. Zoomer's members are an active bunch. They have restaurant meet ups before their monthly meetings. They have movie nights and gather for group runs often in association with The Foot Landing shoe store in Punta Gorda. Plus, during the summer they change gears for some new adventures.

On Sunday the Zoomer's members met at the Treasure Lanes bowling alley for some spirited competition. They broke up into teams and compared scores for random prizes while eating pizza and encouraging each other. I brought my wife Terri along and her first impression said it all. "I have never met such a supportive group. They were cheering for everyone, just like they do at the races. I had a ton of fun."

Bowling is only the beginning, there are more events to follow. They are currently promoting a series of kids races and preparing for open races in North Port (The Firecracker 5k) and Punta Gorda (Hot August Nights 8k). In addition members will be invited to more social outings which will include baseball and canoeing.

Are you a runner looking for a more active social life? It's easy to become a Zoomer, just check their website for membership details. Sign up now and you'll never have to run alone again.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

SCORR Pub Ride Invades Venice Island

For many it seemed to be a typical Saturday evening in the City of Venice, the streets were clearing, the sun was setting and the mood was relaxed. Then, out of nowhere, dozens of bicycles buzzed by. Road bikes, Mountain bikes and even a BMX bike casually cruised down the side streets filling the Island with a whole new crowd of smiling faces.

Who was this mysterious peloton? They were the second gathering of the SCORR (Sarasota County Off Road Riders) pub ride which included the owners and employees of Real Bikes Venice, Real Bikes Englewood and Bicycles International Venice.

Eric Claussen displaying the new bike trail signs
SCORR is the group which recently crafted 4 miles worth of Mountain bike trails in the Carlton Reserve park. This particular pub crawl was put together to raise money to pay for the signs that will be posted on those trails. SCORR volunteers, wearing the camouflage shirts, made sure no rider was left behind as 60 cyclists traversed the streets at dusk with a good time in mind.

After meandering through a few quiet lanes they settled on the first stop near Venice beach. Here the riders dismounted. They ate watermelon while having a few drinks and watching the sun set over the gulf. SCORR rider Randy Hurley encouraged some smiles when he asked trivia questions for his bag full of prizes. In short time the riders were remounting to continue their journey in the fading light of early evening.

Now emblazoned with a hundred lights the group moved on to the next stop at a SCORR rider's house where a tiki bar known as the "Flying Pig" had been set up in the front yard. More libations and snacks added a nice salty balance to the jovial atmosphere.

With caution and giggles at a premium, the cyclists returned downtown where they visited the elegant "La Dolce Vita." There a live musician fed off the huge crowd as more prizes were given away outside. At every location passers by asked about the swarm and loved the idea, hoping to join up next time. 

The event ended around midnight with some flavored ales and hilarious karaoke performances at the "Tap & Cork." The evening was a chance for bike lovers to meet each other and share a fun experience. The crowd slowly disbanded, many with pained cheeks from so much laughter.

Anyone who might want to join in the fun, Check FB for future SCORR events:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Getting my Feet Dirty - Barefoot Running

A recent trend in the athletic world seems to me a bit strange - barefoot running. For the past few years runners and shoe companies have been making major adjustments to their training and products based largely on the premise of one influential philosophy - minimalism. In this context it is the idea that barefoot is way we were meant to run.

This idea was futher popularized by the book Born To Run - A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen - by Christopher McDougall (Google Affiliate Ad). It was a run away hit in 2011 (Pun intended). It tells the story of an Indian tribe that runs hundreds of miles every year without shoes and without injury. He not only tells their tale but also connects recent research which suggest that modern day shoes might hurt our feet as much as help in these types of endeavors. Admittedly, I have yet to read this book but it is on my list.

While all of this sounds like a twisted version of back to the future where scores of people just start throwing off their sneakers in a mad attempt to break 88 mile per hour, it is not so cut and dry. Other experts have come forward stating that barefoot running has been used by coaches to teach better technique for many years. They are also warning that beginners could just as easily hurt themselves should they jump into this trend before understanding the painful possibilities. For more on this perspective read the Post Injury Running Blog.

With all of these thoughts in mind, I still decided to give it a try. However, I'm not some noob who jumps into a pool of jellyfish thinking he's Aquaman - I took precautions.

My plan was simple. I wanted to start working on 400 meter sprints to improve my speed. I measured out the cricket field at my local recreational park to ensure the distance and then I did a warm-up lap with my shoes on. The oval was well groomed, soft grass without any obstructions. I know because my initial lap gave me an opportunity to look for anything that might hurt my feet.

I returned to the pavilion, took off my shoes and did some dynamic stretching before returning to the oval. Now it was time for some fun.

The first lap was not a success. My feet felt heavy due to the fact that they were making real contact with the earth. At the 100 meter mark I stepped on a sand spur but I kept going and a few feet later stepped on another. The two were poking lightly into my skin and they hurt but it took another fifty meters before I had to stop and pull them out. The rest of the lap went by without incident.

One bad lap was not going to stop me. I took a breather, double checked my feet and returned for the third lap.

You know those moments in life where you really should be paying attention to what you are doing but for some inexplicable reason, you're not. That is what happened during the second lap. My mind shut off, my knees raised high and my stride lengthened into a beautiful sprint. I was absolutely flying. It wasn't until I reached the 300 meter mark that I realized how fast I was going. Something had definitely changed. The third lap carried that same glorious stride but was even faster.

I would love to conclude that running barefoot made all the difference, that the absence of my shoes corrected my footfalls and set me right but that seems like too much of an assumption. I will say that it felt different, it felt freeing.

Later in the week I returned to the oval for another session of sprints with similar results. My feet felt light, fast, my stride was wide and quick. The next week I returned yet again but this time tried a set of 800 meter sprints. The grass had grown a little longer and it did whip at my shins but other than that it was still an exhilarating experience.

After only a couple weeks I can say that I love running barefoot at least for short distances and on a soft surface. My reasons have little to do with technique and a lot to do with joy. Running barefoot reminds me of a time when I did this as a kid and didn't think twice about it. This freedom also reconnects me with the earth and nature making it a soulful experience. The gentle tug of grass blades between my toes and the push of dirt as I spring upward just takes my breath away.

I have found myself waking up early and despite exhaustion and muscles pains, I'd be eager to get to the field so I could take off my shoes and run. Isn't that what it's all about? Shouldn't we follow whatever path compels us forward? Do whatever it takes to get off the couch back into stride? Maybe there is something to this trend after all. Like many others that have come before, there is usually a little truth under the surface that  propels our inquires and forces us to finally give it a try.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The S.L.A.P Mid-Summer MTB Pub Ride

Do you need a good slap every now and then? Well, you're in luck! The Sarasota County Off Road Riders (SCORR) group has put together another one of their infamous pub rides. The S.L.A.P or Summer solstice, Longest day, Almost full moon, Pub ride will be held on June 22nd at 7:30pm in Venice, Florida.

Everyone is Welcome!

Bring your bike, helmet, front and back lights and meet the crew at the downtown Venice gazebo. It is $10 to ride and the money will go for signs to mark the newly built singletrack trails in the T.Mabry Carlton Reserve park.

To learn more about SCORR and the SLAP ride visit:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Weight Watcher's ActiveLink Training Tool Review

The Weight Watchers company has been helping people eat right and lose weight in a healthy way for decades. I first got to see how their system works when a friend of mine asked me to take her "Before" picture. She was nearly 300 pounds and had finally reached the point of determination where she wanted it to change. A year and a half later I got to take one of her many "After" pictures. She had lost over 100 pounds.

The reason I tell you this story is that my lovely wife Terri B, has reached the point where she is determined to make a change. She signed up to Weight Watchers, diligently attends all the meetings and she is even trying their latest technology - ActiveLink.

Activelink is a small electronic monitor that clips to a person's clothing. All day long it tracks a their physical activity from the shortest walk to the longest swim. It doesn't matter if you are doing housework, shopping, physical labor or exercising, everything registers on the monitor. These movements are recorded and can later be viewed online by plugging the unit into any laptop via USB port.

You might be asking, How can an electronic monitor make you lose weight? The answer is awareness. Many people who are having weight problems tend to be sedentary. Their lack of physical movement causes them to retain a higher amount of calories than an active person would use on a normal day. But how do you measure movement outside the sphere of exercise?

Terri works at a job where she is sitting most of the day but she also has periods of activity that seemed worthy of measurement. Once she started using the Activelink her preconceived notions were instantly challenged. Her normal daily routine barely registered as physical activity. Some days were busier than others but in general this knowledge reinforced the idea that she need to do more if she wanted to reach her goals.

The Activelink requires the participant to first set a baseline of activity by wearing it for a set period of time. Then the online software records activity against the baseline to determine how much more is needed for weight loss to occur. Points are scored for any amount beyond the 100% marker.

Terri also monitored her exercises - mostly swimming and biking. This is where the Activelink proved to be very valuable. On small local bike rides or short swims her movements proved to be useful but minimal, sometimes not even reaching 100% of her daily baseline. This was a reminder that passive exercise alone was not enough. Activelink encourages the creation of a more active lifestyle adapted one day at time.

Since shorter exercises didn't always reach her goals, Terri became more motivated towards longer, more involved training like our group mountain bike rides. These rides last more than 90 minutes and challenge the limits of her conditioning. On those days her activity level spikes through the roof. As a result of this visible reward she has become eager to take part in the group rides every week.

The most important question is, does Activelink work? Does the heightened awareness of physical activity really encourage people to alter their lifestyles? In Terri's case the answer is a resounding yes. Being mindful of what she does on a daily basis has pushed her to rise above that baseline. As a result of this increase in activity alongside her improved nutrition, she has lost more than 16 pounds.

ActiveLink is available exclusively to Weight Watcher's subscribers.